Digital Decline in Realism


Growing up I was apart of the “Playstation generation” and with football games being a personal favourite, it got me wondering how much has it influenced the way I and others consume football?

My first memory of a football game was wondering into my brother’s room, aged 4, and on the chunky, pixelated screen of heaven was FIFA: Road to the World Cup ’98. Instantly, I was hooked, the 32-bit version with the correct offside rule (in contrast to previous versions where offside was given for passing behind you) had me consuming a type of football due to my family not having access to Sky Sports and all that until the later years of my childhood. I used to be enthralled watching my brother compete in the game mode which replicates the qualification to the World Cup and eventually going on to group stages and then knockouts.

I didn’t properly start watching football until the early to mid 2000’s and the games played a huge part in my decision to follow the sport. I must have been about 7/8 years old when I started playing the console games properly, FIFA 2003 with Roberto Carlos, Thierry Henry & Edgar Davids on the cover was my first real hit of football, which led me into getting into it seriously, we now had Sky Sports and I thought I would become a proper football fan. Surprisingly, I found the real sport boring, it was nowhere near as quick in real life as it was virtually, Henry could dribble round every player and still run the entire length of the pitch in about 20 FIFA seconds which amounts to about 5 seconds in the real world.

It was a difficult transition from the more Hollywood glam version the Playstation depicts to the more grey and dreary real life incantation. Thankfully, with age, I grew into enjoying the game for real by playing it (albeit, I was technically poor, slow and fat…But I could pull off a wicked rainbow flick) and watching my beloved Arsenal during the mid 00’s. Although, I am still partial to the game of FIFA, still.

This got me wondering about the kids growing up now with the more “realistic” up to date games. For example, FIFA 13 boasts a career mode where you control a team as a manager, making transfers, adapting the formation and even changing the kit numbers and boots. When I was growing up it was just pass and run, now days you’re as close as managing a team without actually obtaining any of your coaching badges and licences. I have seen a large amount of teenagers on the internet, discussing players they have found through FIFA, either boasting how good or how bad a player based upon their form in a game, which hints at some kind of perverse virtual scouting based on a database of players controlled by a human. Granted, I presume there is some realism in player’s statistics and their growth but as an owner of this game, I have signed Mezut Ozil for West Brom at a grand total of £29,000,000 and in an Arsenal career mode, I had to pay Theo Walcott a £20,000 bonus, compared to his actual bonus in real life which was nearer the £3,000,000 mark.

I understand it broadens the horizons of footballing knowledge and introduces you to players around the world but I think the judging of them through a virtual adaptation is poor. Anyway, I don’t think anything is better than watching foreign leagues or waiting for a World Cup or European Championships to come round to be seduced by the new talent that’s on show, it’s a nicer surprise and far more reliable.

Aaron Young @ThisNeedsAGoal